Hear’s to a new era for kids: Phoenix Radio takes over the waves of children’s radio

Phoenix FM radio, Dean Clough, Halifax.'Mother and daughter presenters Sara Hinchliffe and Ruby Kilner, 11.
Phoenix FM radio, Dean Clough, Halifax.'Mother and daughter presenters Sara Hinchliffe and Ruby Kilner, 11.

ARE you sitting comfortably? Then I’ll begin . . .

A very long time ago in the dim and distance past when children didn’t have iPods, PlayStations or digital television, they settled down in front of the radio and listened with mother to exciting stories or sang along to nursery rhymes recounted by a host of jolly presenters with dulcet-toned BBC voices.

Phoenix FM radio, Dean Clough, Halifax.'Presenters Barbara Coombs with granddaughter Sophie Coombs.

Phoenix FM radio, Dean Clough, Halifax.'Presenters Barbara Coombs with granddaughter Sophie Coombs.

Then sadly, after nearly 90 years of these well-loved radio programmes the BBC discovered that the average age of those tuning in to Children’s Hour and Listen With Mother was 50 plus and so they decided to switch them off forever.

However, Calderdale youngsters need not worry about missing out on their fix because children’s radio is alive and well thanks to Phoenix Radio, based at Dean Clough, Halifax.

They can tune in to the station at 96.7 FM and enjoy programmes packed with fun and ideas courtesy of mum and daughter team Sara Hinchliffe and Ruby Kilner.

Sara and Ruby take to the airwaves on a Saturday tea-time when they entertain an ever-growing band of young listeners - from pre-school to primary school ages - with a programme packed full of ideas.

And when they aren’t in the studio, the Kids’ Show presenters are another talented, family duo - gran and grand-daughter Barbara and Sophie Coombs.

“We have a good mix of things from lively games to recipes and creative crafts as well as a green spot where we encourage children to be aware of green issues and look after the planet,” explains Sara who is a long-standing presenter with the local station.

She became involved while researching an oral history project and used Phoenix’s facilities for recording and editing the material she collected.

The station’s directors asked if she was interested in presenting and she has never looked back. As well as the children’s show, she now presents Coffee Culture, a twice weekly slot that puts lots of interesting guests in the hot seat.

With the kids’ show, her co-presenter is her 11-year-old daughter Ruby, who has been at the mixing desk since she was just seven.

“I love chatting and I never seem to get lost for words. I can always think of something to say, says the Boothtown School pupil brightly.

“Me and mum try to think of ideas that are interesting and that are aimed at everybody, children of all ages.”

The secret, says Sara is not to “dumb down” but to entertain and inform and hopefully inspire their young listeners into doing something for themselves once the show has finished.

“We have a section called Jump Around which is the active bit of the show where we might try and describe a playground game they could try out or a game they could set up with their friends in the garden or the local park. The criteria has to be that it’s either completely free or cheap.”

Another section is What’s Cooking where they share recipes (usually healthy-eating ones) and encourage children to have a go at making them.

Creative kids is another element which encourages imagination and fun.

“We have to be mindful that if we’re making something it has to be very simple because showing someone how to make something and describing it over the radio is quite different,” laughs Sara.

“It can’t be anything too complex, otherwise we would tie ourselves - and listeners - in knots.”

The pair reveal that their shows are often inspired by events in the news such as the Chilean Miners’ disaster and Holocaust Memorial Day, and they are often lucky enough to invite along guests.

In the past they have enjoyed chatting to locally-born children’s author and former Children’s Laureate Anthony Browne, as well as teenage fiction writer Anne Fine.

“We also like to tell listeners what’s going on in Calderdale because there are often lots if interesting things happening and places to go too,” says Ruby.

“I like doing the research for the programmes as well. We’re planning a show all about eyes and we’re hopefully going to invite someone from Guide Dogs for the Blind.”

Sara reveals that she grew up listening to radio shows such as Listen with Mother, as well as Singing Together.

“I think it’s good that locally we can still offer a children’s radio show, the feedback we get is great and we are always interested in hearing from listeners because it’s good to hear their ideas for the show. Ruby and I have come up with a lot of ideas ourselves so far and sometimes you just need a helping hand.”

Anyone interested in sending in ideas or audio clips for the Kids’ Show can contact Phoenix radio at 01422 365923 or email kids@phoenixfm.co.uk or visit www.phoenixfm.co.uk